What Are The 5 Axes In 5-Axis Milling?

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When someone uses the term “5-axis” they are typically referring to the ability of a CNC machine to move a part or a tool on five different axes at the same time. 3-axis machining centers move a part in two directions (X and Y), and the tool moves up and down (Z). 5-Axis machining centers can rotate on two additional rotary axes (A and B) which help the cutting tool approach the part from all directions.

In CNC machining, the use of 5-Axis milling machines is becoming more common. The technology is revolutionizing product manufacturing and precision machining across all industries.

When used properly, 5-Axis machines can produce higher quality and more dependable results faster and more efficiently than can be accomplished with multiple setups on three or four axis machines. 5-Axis machining is particularly useful for applications where complex parts that have many features applied at various angles and surfaces around the part are being manufactured. This capability also make innovative and experimental designs more feasible.

On a traditional 3-axis machine, multiple setups and configurations are often necessary to create the finished product. With 5 axes, more features can be accessed and milled in the same operation. In some cases, this can often result in a virtual "one and done” process.

The 5-Axis Configurations:

A 5-axis machine’s specific configuration determines which two of the three rotational axes it utilizes.

For example, a trunnion-style machine operates with an A-axis (rotating about the X-axis) and a C-axis (rotating about the Z-axis), whereas a swivel-rotate-style machine operates with a B-axis (rotating about the Y-axis) and a C-axis (rotating about the Z-axis).

The rotary axes in trunnion-style machines are expressed via the movement of the table, whereas swivel-rotate-style machines express their rotary axes by swiveling the spindle. Both styles have their own unique advantages. For instance, trunnion-style machines offer larger work volumes, since there’s no need to compensate for the space taken up by the swiveling spindle. On the other hand, swivel-rotate-style machines can support heavier parts, since the table is always horizontal.

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